Worker safety is a top concern for facilities everywhere. While safety training and precautions can go a long way towards ensuring workers’ safety, safety really begins with a facility’s initial design and construction.
If a facility is haphazardly designed, no amount of safety training can combat that. But what sort of design decisions make a work environment safer than another? In today’s work environment, workers regularly have to battle a wide range of various issues.
From air pollution to privacy concerns, to mental health and traditional OSHA standard safety hazards, today’s workforce is fraught with dangers. While there’s no way to eliminate risks completely, there’s a lot we can do to mitigate them.
It all starts with being proactive from the beginning. Using intelligent design, forward-thinking, and new materials, it’s possible to construct facilities that are aesthetically appealing, cost-effective, and safe.
Let’s look at three areas where material, construction, and design choices can significantly impact workers’ safety.
While glass doesn’t seem like the most pertinent part of a building’s construction, in many commercial offices, warehouses, and other structures, glass is a prevalent material. It’s a material, that if improperly handled during construction or underthought during planning, can present many safety hazards.
Just at face value, broken glass presents physical hazards. Broken glass can be contaminated with chemicals. Plus, cuts and blood can promote the spread of infectious diseases. Anyone who has to handle broken glass should do so with gloves and take appropriate precautions.
However, we’re talking about prevention. The best way to avoid broken glass is to design and purchase high-quality glass from the beginning. Don’t cut corners with cheaper glass for windows, dividers, and décor.
But glass also prevents other safety hazards. Many office buildings use glass in their offices as walls. While it makes the building feel nice and open, it unfortunately eliminates privacy. Privacy, especially when dealing with personal information, is a worker safety concern. With thoughtful design, you can use things like Avanti glass office wall partitions, to ensure a high level of privacy for sensitive matters.
While many things that we’ve said about glass can translate to windows, the windows deserve a section all on their own. Windows need to be correctly installed, because improperly installed windows can lead to some disastrous safety concerns. This is especially true with windows on the upper floors.
However, windows are also crucial for bringing in natural light. It’s well-documented that one of the most significant hazards facing the modern-day worker is mental health safety. 83% of US workers suffer from stress-related to work. More shockingly, stress causes $190 billion in yearly healthcare costs and results in 120,000 deaths per year.
It’s imperative to understand mental health’s impact on worker safety. One way to mitigate those risks is with wide-open windows. Studies show that natural light decreases stress, anxiety, and depression. So, it’s critical to design a building with plenty of windows for natural light.
Additionally, windows are a prime area for air pollution to sneak into any facility. To mitigate these risks, it’s essential to design a building with something like AMC’s industrial louvers, which help to block air pollution. Louvers also help to dissuade direct sunlight. So, workers don’t have to worry about blinding sunlight to reap the benefits of some natural rays.
Floor Drainage Safety
You might be alarmed to know that 26% of nonfatal injuries in the workplace are because of a slip, trip, or fall. In fact, in 2016, falls caused 702 workplace deaths. While some of the issues were training issues or faulty machinery, some injuries are a direct result of standing water and slippery surfaces.
These injuries could be avoided by proper planning in the construction phase. Namely, by incorporating proper drains and using flooring materials that prevent slips, a facility can be dramatically safer. For instance, having a driveway drainage system installed, like the one by SlotDrain, not only keeps your facilities driveway safe, it prevents erosion, foundation damage, and structural damage.
But, don’t stop with outdoor drainage systems, from the beginning of the design phase, if it’s appropriate, consider having drains inside the building, too. It’s also crucial to choose a non-slip flooring to maximize worker safety.
Additionally, when it comes to drains, it’s imperative to keep them maintained and cleaned. Otherwise, you’ll run into a whole new slew of issues surrounding workers’ safety.
Think Ahead to Prevent Worker Injury
Everyone wants their facility to be a safe one. Whether you’re looking to design your facility, or you specialize in facility design, these three areas are fantastic starting points to get your brain thinking about worker safety from the beginning. Safety should be a preventative measure, not as a reactionary one.
Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Matt Lee is the owner of the Innovative Building Materials blog and a content writer for the home building materials industry. He is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that save money, improve energy efficiency, and increase property value.